Cloud computing infrastructure is not yet mature enough for something as “mission critical” as an Olympic Games, according to Gerry Pennell, CIO of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).
Speaking at a BT press event in London this week, Pennell said that although future Olympic Games were likely to make greater use of cloud computing, “it was certainly not possible in the three and a half years we had in the interval between 2008 and 2012”.
“Economically, and in the longer term, it would make a lot of sense for the Olympics to be done on a cloud infrastructure basis, because it's a very peaky operation, so you would be able to call off some resources and use them for a very short amount of time,” he said.
“The trouble is the infrastructure in the cloud is not sufficiently mature enough to support the kind of things we're doing in the Olympics. The applications aren't there, they're not written for the cloud; quite a big migration would be required to move particularly that core infrastructure into the cloud.”
Although cloud computing has not been built into LOCOG's Olympics delivery plan, Tim Boden, CTO of BT's London 2012 Delivery Programme, said that cloud had been used where appropriate.
“There's things like the telephony services for the games, which are entirely hosted on central platforms and delivered over the network. It's part of the legacy because it means the infrastructure we put in there will then support business customers afterwards,” said Boden.
“Similarly, the things we're doing on the web side in terms of caching the content in the cloud. So where the technology was there we've used it, but it's limited to those areas where it's tried and tested.”
Pennell said that LOCOG has been focused on three key technological areas: integrating software, deploying infrastructure and setting up support operations.
Software that measures athletes' performance, drives scoreboards and pushes TV graphics to broadcasters needs to be integrated so that data can be gathered in a central hub and pumped into press agencies, uploaded to websites and used in mobile applications.
This relies on a data network made up of 110,000 pieces of equipment, to support the distribution of information. Often, installation of this infrastructure cannot happen until the last minute, because access to venues like Wimbledon and Horse Guards Parade is restricted.
Finally, LOGOC needs to ensure that there is a resilient support network to deal with problems on site during the Games. The Technical Operations Centre (TOC), which oversees all technology deployed across the Olympic sites, will switch over to 24-hour operation on Thursday.
“At Games time it's not acceptable for a typical corporate business service level to prevail. The model where you ring up a help desk and several days later you get a fix won't really work,” said Pennell. “We need the right support model provisioned locally, and we need to make sure we have the right technological expertise on tap.”
Pennell said that LOGOC's focus now is on making sure everything is in the right place, commissioned, tested and ready to go when the Games start in just over two weeks.
“We're in a pretty good place, but it's not over until it's over,” he said.